The following account was written for me several years ago by two-times convicted and imprisoned criminal, Mike Ahearne. Reformed and re-invented, Mike went on to become a much respected and well-loved academic colleague. Mike has a unique style as an inspirational and truly expert educator of criminology students and academic staff alike. He retired as Senior Lecturer in Criminology from Nottingham Trent University in the summer of 2012. I think that this tale, which is typical of many strange but true stories with which he has ragaled us all over the years, is too good to remain hidden away in my dusty virtual archives because, in my opinion, this particular story provides valuable dis-confirming evidence for what I call the “All Crime is Bad Myth”. The tale is re-told here for others to ponder its message. Moreover, it's darned good entertainment, which neatly confirms the functionalist view that some crime enriches the world as well as robbing from it.
It was Emile Durkheim who first espoused what was then the highly controversial functionalist notion that crime is a normal part of society and indeed that a society with little or no crime would be unhealthy in that it would be over-controlled and stagnant and that some crime could bring benefit to society. A classic example can be found with the suffragette movement - in their day these women were branded as criminals, in our day we recognize them as heroines who moved society forward. In keeping with this great sociological insight and to pose the question albeit in a far more modest context, I bring you the tale of Teddy Bear Ted.
The story goes back to a time when what are now known in Britain as ’Snooker Centres’, providing the facilities for a respectable leisure pursuit, were called billiard halls providing the environment in which many a youth was misspent.
In just such a den of iniquity located in London’s East End, characters answering to monikers such as Fat Jack, Eleven to Ten Bernie, The Cat, Peter the Hat and more besides spent their days avoiding honest toil and looking instead for something better than an even break. Inevitably, gambling was central to billiard hall life and anyone who could provide what appeared to be good quality ’information’ regarding the prospects of quadrupeds in forthcoming races was a highly respected man. None became more respected than the individual who had access to greyhound tips emanating from one Teddy Bear Ted and after four straight winners Ted had acquired an enthusiastic fan club despite the fact that no-one actually knew who he was.
So it was that the next time the word came, “got one from the Teddy Bear”, a sizeable posse from the billiard hall was off to the dogs armed with every last pound they could scrape together from all manner of sources.
As, alas, is the way of all good things, this one was about to come to an end and several of the assembled company were ruefully asking why they, in particular, always seemed to be there just as the wheel came off, since it was obvious as the runners headed for the penultimate bend that the wretched beast could not win even if it suddenly sprouted wings.
But suddenly, just as hope was abandoned and losing tickets were about to be tossed into the night sky they were preceded by another object winging its way through space. A four foot toy teddy bear landed with consummate timing right in the path of the leading greyhound and for that glorious moment canine chaos reigned as dogs collided with both bear and one another, rolled over and headed in all directions other than the winning line.
To the great relief of certain overstretched punters, the ’No Race’ sign flashed large on the totalisator board signifying all bets void and the safe return of all stakes. Meanwhile, the teddy bear was securely in custody but remaining tight-lipped, while both the whereabouts and identity of Ted remain a mystery to this day.
Now there can be no doubt that the escapades of Teddy Bear Ted were bent and had the thin blue line extended as far as Ted’s collar, some sort of offence would have been found with which to charge our bold hero and his behaviour duly admonished, but wouldn’t life’s rich tapestry be that much poorer without the colour, without the bentness that the likes of Teddy Bear Ted bring to society?